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Universität zu Köln

Englisches Seminar

Office : Pohligstr. 1, Room 06


Research Interests

My research focuses on information structure, i.e., on how informational categories (topic and contrast in particular) are encoded in sentence structure at the syntax/semantics and syntax/prosody interface. I am also interested in the acquisition of syntax and prosody by monolingual and bilingual children and second language learners. 

Present and Past Positions

I am currently working as a Post-Doctoral researcher in the Emerging Group Dynamic Structure in Language and Communication. 

Sept. - Dec. 2013 Adjunct Professor (class: Introduction to the study of Language), Department of Linguistics, University of Verona. 

Aug. 2012 - Dec. 2013 Post-doc in Second Language Acquisition. Title of the project: The acquisition of polar interrogatives, PRIN 2009 'Acquisition and Teaching of L2 Italian Grammar: morpho-syntactic constraints and discourse-pragmatic choices'. Supervisor: Prof. Camilla Bettoni, University of Verona.

April 2013 Visiting Faculty at the University of Richmond (Virginia). Classes Taught: General Linguistics (with focus on first language acquisition) and History of Romane Languages (with focus on syntactic variation across Italian dialects). 


2009-2011 Ph.D. in Linguistics, University of Verona. Title of the Dissertation: Encoding Topic, Focus and Contrast: Informational Notions at the Interfaces (Defense Committee: Marina Chini, Martin Everaert, Ad Neeleman, Alessandra Tomaselli). 

2010-2011 Visiting Scholar University of Los Angeles, California (UCLA).

Jul. 2009 Visiting Scholar University of Berkeley, California.

2006-2008 M.A. (Laurea Specialistica) Philosophy, University of Pisa, Pisa (with Honors - 110/110 cum laude). Thesis: Dalle strutture informazionali alle linearizzazioni: uno studio sull'ontogenesi dell'enunciato italiano (From informational functions to linearization: A study on the ontogenesis of utterances in Italian). Supervisors: Prof. Carlo Marletti and Dr. Valentina Bambini. 

August 2007 Summer School of Logic, Associazione Italiana di Logica e le sue Applicazioni (AILA).

2006-2008 Degree (Diploma), Linguistics and Philology, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa (with Honors - 70/70 cum laude). Thesis: Cognitive categories behind early Topic/Comment Structures. Supervisor: Prof. Pier Marco Bertinetto.  

2002-2006 B.A. (Laurea Triennale), Philosophy, University of Macerata (with Honors - 110/110 cum laude). Thesis: The puzzling issue of objects in Wittgenstein's Tractatus. Supervisor: Prof. Francesco Orilia.  

2005 Erasmus Student, Freie Universitaet Berlin. 


preprints are available here 

in preparation 

  • Postfocal Topics in Italian and Spanish: A Phonological Account (under major revisions for Lingua
  • The acquisition of English polar questions at the syntax/prosody interface (with Bruno di Biase and Camilla Bettoni).


  • Activation of referents in the bilingual mind. Language Faculty and Beyond. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.


  • Distinguishing Focus and Contrast at PF: A view from Italian. In: Focus Realization and Interpretation in Romance and Beyond, Marco García García & Melanie Uth (eds.). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.  


  • Interrogative polari inglesi: un'analisi all'interfaccia tra sintassi e prosodia. In Iacobini, C., et al. (eds.), Atti del XLVIII Congresso Internazionale della Società di Linguistica italiana (SLI 2013). Roma: Bulzoni Editore. 
  • Disentangling Contrastive Topics. In Johnson M. (ed.), Proceedings of the 9th Workshop in General Linguistics (WIGL9), LSO Working Papers in Linguistics, University of Wisconsin-Madison.


  • Putting Contrast on the Table. In: Steindl, U. et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the 32nd West Coast Conference of Formal Linguistics (WCCFL32),  Somerville MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project. Available here
  • Testing Accessibility: A cross-linguistic comparison of referring expressions. In: Proceedings of the 89th Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America. Extended Abstract (with Christiane Bongartz and Ianthi Tsimpli). Available here
  • Asimmetrie tra percezione e produzione dell'acquisizione L2 della fonologia: uno studio pilota sulle interrogative polari inglesi. In Nuzzo, E. and Favilla, E. (eds.), Grammatica Applicata: Apprendimento, Patologie, Insegnamento (Studi AItLA 2), Milano: Edizioni AItLA. 


  • 'Rippled' low topics: A phonological approach to postfocal topics in Italian. In: Lahousse, K. and Marzo, S., (eds.), Romance Language and Linguistic Theory 2012. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 
  • On polar questions, negation and the syntactic encoding of epistemicity. In Cantarini, S., Abraham, W., Leiss, E. (eds.), Certainty-uncertainty - and the attitudinal space in between. Amsterdam: John Benjamins (with Sibilla Cantarini). 
  • English Compounds in Child Italian, in Costa, J., Fieis, A., Freitas, M.J., Lobo, M., and Santos, A.L. (eds.), New Directions in the Acquisition of Romance Languages, Selected Proceedings of the Romance Turn V. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholar Publishing (with Chiara Melloni). 


  • Review: 'The Expression of Information Structure', Krifka, M. and Musan, R. (eds.), De Gruyter Mouton: Berlin, published for Linguist List: http://linguistlist.org/pubs/reviews/get-review.cfm?SubID=9166560.
  • Towards a phonological account of contrast in Italian: a pilot-study on contrastive topics. In Anttikoski, E. and Tirkkonen, J-M. (eds.), Proceedings of the 24th Scandinavian Conference of Linguistics. University of Eastern Finland. 


  • Encoding Topic, Focus and Contrast. Informational Notions at the Interfaces, unpublished dissertation, University of Verona. 
  • Towards a taxonomy of focus types. The case of information foci and contrastive foci in Italian. In Paperno, D. (ed.), UCLA Working Papers in Linguistics: Special Issue on Semantics and Mathematical Linguistics. University of California, Los Angeles. 
  • Encoding Contrast at PF: GLOW Newsletter 68: 151-152.


  • Cognitive categories behind early topic/comment structures. In Chini, M. (ed.), Topic, struttura dell'informazione e acquisizione linguistica. Milano: Franco Angeli (with Valentina Bambini). 


  • Presupposizione. In Ricci, I. (ed.), Quaderni del Laboratorio di Linguistica della Scuola Normale Superiore 6, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa. 




Recent Talks and Presentations


  • The use of demonstrative pronouns in child German: A contrast-based account. Oral presentation at the 12th Conference 'Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition' (GALA 12), 10-12 September. Nantes.

  • Towards a scale of contrastive topics: A view from topicalization and predicate clefts in Italian, poster presentation at the International Conference 'Prominence in Language', 15-17 June 2015 (with Katja Jasinkaja). 
  • Challenging overspecification: accessibility in the bilingual mind. Conference 'Linguistic and Cognitive Effects in Anaphora Resolution', 15-16 May, University of Thessaloniki (with Christiane Bongartz). 
  • 'I don't know about...': Eliciting focus and contrast in Rionero Italian. 5th Nijmegen-Cologne Prosody Workshop, Radboud University Nijmegen. 
  • 'Measuring' bilingual reference management: A methodological proposal. BALED (Bilingual Acquisition and Bilingual Education) Workshop, 23-24 April, University of Thessaloniki (with Christiane Bongartz)  
  • Testing accessibility. A cross-linguistic comparison of the syntax of referring expressions, Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA 2015), Portland, 8-11 January 2015 (with Christiane Bongartz and Ianthi Tsimpli). 


  • The role of accessibility in bilingual referential cohesion. Workshop 'Acquisition in Different Circumstances', Congresso Internazionale della Società di Linguistica Italiana, University of Udine, 25-27 September 2014 (with Christiane M. Bongartz, Eva Knopp, Maria Andreou, Ianthi Tsimpli and Maria Kaltsa). 
  • Prominence and Bilingualism, CCLS Lectures, University of Cologne (with Christiane Bongartz). 
  • Putting contrast on the Table. 32nd West Coast Conference of Formal Linguistics, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 7-9 March 2014. 
  • Putting contrast on the Table. 40th Incontro di Grammatica Generativa. University of Trento, 13-15 Februar 2014.


  • The development of English yes/no questions at the syntax/phonology interface. EUROSLA 2013, University of Amsterdam, 28-31 August 2013 (with Camilla Bettoni). 
  • Anti-simmetry in early two-word utterances, International Congress of Linguistics 19 (ICL19), University of Geneva, 22-27 July 2013 (with Chiara Melloni).